Now that he was back home, Richard took the time to visit places he hadn’t been to in a long while. Not the ones he hadn’t been to over just the year he’d been away, but from far before as well. Places he hadn’t visited in over a decade. He was just on a nostalgia trip, and he also had friends to show things off to. Susan was his “cousin” but she was still his friend too.
The first place they visited was a park. Richard was glad it was still around, though he couldn’t think of any good reason it wouldn’t be. Still, sometimes parks got shut down or changed for various reasons. This one was still around, and though it wasn’t quite as big as Richard had remembered it, it was still big. The most prominent feature was a slide that stood tall and proud in the center, in the shape of a helix. Richard had walked past a few parks on Maropa, and that made this slide seem so much bigger. Susan had only seen the ones on Maropa, and so her eyes grew wide. There was such a big difference, not because people on Maropa preferred smaller slides, but because of gravity. The approximately half gravity was almost directly proportional to a doubling in the height of the slide.
The park was empty, though Richard supposed that was likely because most children would be in school. The breaks from Maropa University and the school systems here on Utopia weren’t exactly in sync. Of course, the group of friends didn’t just stand around looking at the slide. Richard was first to climb the ladder and then go down the slide. Though it was somewhat embarrassing, it was still fun. Susan went down next, followed by Hiroshi. Jot loitered around at the bottom of the slide.
“Don’t you want to take a turn?” Richard asked Jot.
Jot shook his head. “Go ahead.”
Richard shrugged and everyone went down a few more times. Though it was fun… each time was a little bit less. Richard looked at Jot, who was situated underneath the slide… poking and prodding at it. As Richard went on to look at the rest of the part, Jot stayed at the slide, pushing at various parts. Then, he finally climbed up the slide, apparently satisfied with its stability. Then, he went down the slide. His body slid more rapidly than any of the others, his greater mass reducing the effect of friction from the slide. When he reached the bottom, he stood up, his expression seemingly neutral. However, Richard could tell he had a slight smile, which was about all Xevaronians ever showed.
The park wasn’t just a single slide, though Richard had seen such. In addition to the slide, there was a climbing net, set at about a 45 degree angle. The top was about three meters up, and it was shaped somewhat like a cone around a pole in the middle. Thus, there wasn’t a side to fall off, and even rolling down the slope of the rope would be safe… if uncomfortable. Climbing on it was fun, but it felt a bit too small. The slide was about the biggest it could safely be, and it was approximately the same no matter how big the rider was. The climbing net wasn’t the same, but Richard still had fun. Susan hadn’t ever had the chance to play with a climbing net, so she enjoyed herself quite a bit. Hiroshi also had fun, but instead of climbing up like he was supposed to, he was walking upright on the ropes. They were thick, but Richard found it was quite hard when he tried the same, since the ropes weren’t taut. Thus, they moved easily, making it hard to balance. Still, Richard managed, if a little shakily. Susan tried too, but fell over. Fortunately, she found it funny instead of particularly embarrassing. Jot looked distrustingly at the ropes, and decided not to test their weight holding capabilities until all three of the others were off the structure. Even then, he was only on for a brief moment before he sensed a bit of strain and got off. Richard still didn’t think he looked like it, but Jot was heavier than all three of them put together. Actually, if Elena were here, she could also be added, and Jot would still be a bit more.
There wasn’t much else of interest at the park. There was a set of swings, but they were too low to the ground to be used comfortably by an adult. Jot would have almost certainly snapped the chains holding them up, as sturdy as they probably were. A sand pit filled another portion of the playground, but if Richard wanted to play in the sand he’d pick somewhere bigger… like the beach.
Finally, they returned home for lunch. Richard’s father met them inside. “Where were you?” he asked in a curious manner. Not accusingly, because if he really wanted to know where Richard was, he could have called him and asked.
“We were at the park.”
“And you didn’t invite me? Tch.” Mr. Smith shook his head in an exaggeratedly disappointed manner. Richard supposed he could have, but going out for fun with his father still felt a bit weird. On the other hand, they looked more like brothers than ever before, so outsiders wouldn’t likely be able to tell that he wasn’t just one of the friends. Richard still kept him in a different category than friends, however, even if he still liked to spend time with him. Just not too much time.
“Well, maybe next time. What are we having for lunch?”
“You think I’d cook lunch for a bunch of kids who left me home alone?” Richard’s father turned up his nose. “But yeah I made spaghetti, it’s almost done.”
Richard smiled. His father wasn’t the best cook in the world, but he wasn’t bad, and eating familiar dishes with familiar people made them better. It was also nice when Richard didn’t have to go to any classes or such after a meal, and could just continue to relax.